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Immunol Rev. 2011 Jul;242(1):69-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2011.01031.x.

Rhinoviruses, allergic inflammation, and asthma.

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  • 1Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA.


Viral infections affect wheezing and asthma in children and adults of all ages. In infancy, wheezing illnesses are usually viral in origin, and children with more severe wheezing episodes are more likely to develop recurrent episodes of asthma and to develop asthma later in childhood. Children who develop allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (allergic sensitization) and those who wheeze with human rhinoviruses (HRV) are at especially high risk for asthma. In older children and adults, HRV infections generally cause relatively mild respiratory illnesses and yet contribute to acute and potentially severe exacerbations in patients with asthma. These findings underline the importance of understanding the synergistic nature of allergic sensitization and infections with HRV in infants relative to the onset of asthma and in children and adults with respect to exacerbations of asthma. This review discusses clinical and experimental evidence of virus-allergen interactions and evaluates theories which relate immunologic responses to respiratory viruses and allergens to the pathogenesis and disease activity of asthma. Greater understanding of the relationship between viral respiratory infections, allergic inflammation, and asthma is likely to suggest new strategies for the prevention and treatment of asthma.

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